When artist Faye Waterlow paints, the paintbrush, she says, to a certain extent takes over. Hers is an innate (and meanwhile highly skilled) talent rediscovered during a lockdown watercolour course. Now, her stunning layered paintings create a coral reef of colour in her Brodick studio, as Emily Rose Mawson discovers when she chats to Faye about her impressive early paintings, the energy that goes into creating, and what visitors to Arran Open Studios can expect.


You have a beautiful, eye-catching style of painting. Could you tell me a bit more about your technique?      

Thank you. To be honest, I don’t feel as though I have a technique. When the paintbrush is in my hand it naturally takes over, so I guess there must be some innate as well as learned techniques or style that developed over time. I have been using layering: starting with an underwash and over the days building depth and richness by layering washes. My watercolour paintings also now benefit from adding white gouache, and at times I will use a fine black liner to add definition or interest, as I do not use black or white paint in any of my watercolour paintings. I love watercolours and although I have now mastered the balance of water and pigment, I enjoy the fluid, organic shapes, allowing colours to blend naturally and create intriguing, unpredictable patterns.



Are there any watercolour artists whose work you particularly admire?      

I  enjoy a huge breadth of art from different artists, including the technical drawings of Leonardo da Vinci through to the detailed flower drawings of Charles Rennie MacIntosh. The colours, patterns and shapes within Gustav Klimt and Joan Miro works have always been favourites. However, the artworks hanging in my house are mainly from Arran artists, including Tim Pomeroy, Heather MacLeod, Rob Stevens and Mick Shroom, to name but a few. The paintings need to speak to me and evoke a sense of emotions.

Where do you find your inspiration? 

As an islander, I have always been in awe of, and respectful of, the sea. It therefore serves as a profound source of inspiration for my art, offering an endless palette of colours, moods and textures. I try to be more mindful and notice the little things on my daily walks. It may be the interplay of light and water as the sea shimmers, or how the herons gracefully takes flight, even the patterns on washed-up pottery or the different shades of the sea glass. Inspiration is everywhere.


What’s your first memory of art?

I have always been arty. When I was 4, my drawing of Father Christmas was selected as the image to be used on the nursery fundraising Christmas card. My mum still has that card, 40 years on. I was a very quiet and shy child and would lose myself in my drawings. It was a place for me to escape and be free. I enjoyed art throughout school and went on to be awarded the highest art awards at my Secondary School.

I started studying History of Art at Aberdeen University but found the course to be too dry. I eventually changed to Psychology and moved to study in Edinburgh. After that, my life took a different path and I enjoyed a 23-year career in the whisky industry. But five years ago, my life turned upside down due to a nervous breakdown. I had to find myself again and slowly build myself back up.

During lockdown, my mum bought me an online watercolour course for my birthday. Nostalgically, I used the same watercolour palette my mum had gifted me when I was 12 –  and I still use the same one to this day. The course, as well as support from my husband, mum and friends, unlocked my creativity. I have found creating Art to be a huge part of my ongoing recovery.

You grew up on Arran. What do you think makes the island the art hub it is?

The island has it all: incredible scenery, its own microclimate, and the people who are drawn to the island are usually creative. I have found most people within the Arran ‘art world’ to be genuine, friendly, interested, interesting and very supportive. The life of an artist can be quite isolated, so it is great that there are opportunities to meet fellow artists and collaborate.

Could you describe your studio?

When my children were younger, the room I now use was their play room. When they started school and nursery, I claimed it as my own! It is a beautiful light room with French windows, which are open most of the Summer. Our dog Otto, a miniature Dachshund, loves running in and out and curling up on the comfy chairs to watch over me. The room is my sanctuary, filled with art supplies, books and art on every wall. I have my large easel which I use for bigger pieces, but most of my art is made on my wee wooden desk, which was an heirloom from my mum.  Every photo, ornament and card holds significance and a happy memory. It is very much my ‘happy place’ – and my children love to invade after school. They also feel it is a special place, full of treasures and inspiration.


What might a typical day look like?


I am very much a part-time artist due to family and other commitments. I have to be in the right mood to create. Right now I have a large canvas on the easel which I have painted over seven times. For the last few weeks, there has been a lot of sitting, looking at the canvas, pondering… Even after a painting is completed and I am happy with it,  I will sit and wait, looking at the piece for at least a week, before I truly feel it is finished. Other days, the paintbrush flows and I will have completed a piece in one day, so no two days or weeks are ever the same. I have learned to be flexible and not force my creativity. Both of my children enjoy art and are creative in their own ways, so we do a lot of art as a family, and when their friends visit they get stuck in and enjoy exploring new mediums or techniques.


Where on Arran can people can buy and see your work?


I have a small range of products available from Driftwood and the Arran Heritage Museum. Some paintings can be seen in The Parlour and Arran Accountants, but the best place to see my whole range is at my studio. I am happy for people to make appointments to visit my studio by emailing fayewaterlow@gmail.com or by visiting my little online shop.


What can visitors to Arran Open Studios expect at your studio?


A warm welcome, lots of colour and variety with original paintings and limited edition prints, as well as beautiful velvet cushions, 100% organic cotton tea-towels, cards, mugs and coasters.



Arran Open Studios is an annual initiative incorporating painters, sculptors and craftspeople from the Isle of Arran. Launched in 2012, it operates under the umbrella arts charity the Arran Theatre and Arts Trust. This year, it takes place from 16-19 August.